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Islamabad Airport is likely to be outsourced for 15 years, Aviation Minister Saad Rafique

Saad Rafique says navigational services and runway operations will not be outsourced

Islamabad Airport is likely to be outsourced for 15 years, Aviation Minister Saad Rafique informed the National Assembly on Friday.

Minister for Aviation Khawaja Saad Rafique said that the move is aimed at improving its operational activities.

He also clarified that the move does not equate to privatization, instead, it aims to bring in proficient operators to enhance airport operations.

Federal Minister emphasized that open competitive bidding would be ensured, allowing the best bidder to be given the opportunity to operate the airport.

He said that the process will be profit-oriented, ultimately benefiting the national exchequer.

“The International Finance Corporation will serve as the consultant, and already 12 to 13 companies have shown interest in participating in the bidding process,” he added.

The aviation minister said that the runway and navigation operations would not be included in the outsourcing process.

Highlighting the success of outsourced airports in other countries like India and Turkey, Saad Rafique added that even Madina airport has been efficiently outsourced to deliver enhanced services.

He also stressed the need to restructure Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to address its substantial deficit, which has reached Rs80 billion this year and is projected to increase to Rs259 billion by 2030 if not dealt with appropriately.

He added that no employees would be laid off, and all existing staff would retain their jobs and privileges.

Aviation Minister Saad Rafique mentioned that best practices would be implemented to ensure facilities at airports are efficiently managed.

As reported, the New Islamabad International Airport has been declared a “clean” transaction compared to other airports. And the government is making all-out efforts to outsource it before August 2023.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), in its presentation to Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar last month, mentioned that there are parties interested in securing the operations of these three airports.

However, it will not be easy for the government to proceed speedily as it has not yet advertised the outsourcing of any airport.

“There are some practical issues that need resolution before handing over the airport to any international party. For instance, the national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has become a defaulter of various facilities of these airports,” top official sources confirmed while talking to The News.

“Even if the government were to take over the past liabilities of PIA, how would the new airport operator allow free-of-cost facilities to the carrier? This was one of the major concerns that needed to be resolved before moving forward.”

“In Karachi and Lahore, certain parts of the airports are occupied by some relevant agencies so that requires a permanent solution because the potential investors would like to utilize the complete airport for commercial purposes,” the news source quoted the officials as saying.

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